Chocolate lavender vanilla cookies might cause romance.

Magazine Cuisine

Next to roses and holly, lavender is one of the most romantic plants I can think of to have in the garden. I’ve tried several times to bring this romance to my various yards, but sadly the plants always died off. This time around I must have amended the soil with enough sand to recreate the hillsides of Provence, and it is flourishing at last! And another thing? When I’m watering the garden, I pass right over it. I literally ignore this beauty, and it thrives.

Lavender plantThis bushy lavender plant reassures me that I'm at least a half-decent gardener.

Known for its calming therapeutic properties (we have a soft lavender-filled wrap that, after a few minutes in the microwave, does wonders for neck tension and headaches), lavender has historically had a place in the kitchen, too. It adds perfume to sweets, earthy depth to savory dishes, and makes a calming tea--Queen Elizabeth I drank it to soothe her migraines. I’ve long wanted to experiment with recipes calling for lavender buds or syrup, and the May/June 2010 issue of Victoria Magazine--plus my bumper crop of home-grown lavender--inspired me to make “Lavender and Vanilla Bean Cookies.” If smelling, sipping and wrapping oneself in the scent of lavender helps heal and relax, then surely eating the stuff is bound to result in total bliss!

Lavender harvest
In June my plant was thick with gorgeous purpley stems, which I harvested and dried in lovely fragrant bunches. I disbudded a number of them for the recipe, then discovered that our sweet Miss Molly cat liked to make a mess of what was left in order to nibble the dried stems. I finally had to hide the few remaining bunches on top of the highest bookshelf in the house. Bad kitty.

Lavender cookies stems
That's my green Escali Primo digital scale peeking into the picture. I love that scale! It measures food (and yarn, letters, etc.) in grams or ounces, so now I not only can make recipes from British Country Living magazine (in which all ingredients are measured in grams and liters), but I also can estimate how much yarn I have in a partial ball, how much I've used, how much is left in a ball--especially handy if I'm, say, trying to use exactly half a ball for something. It also lets you place a measuring cup, bowl, pan, or other receptacle on the scale and re-set the weight to zero so you can measure things into the receptacle. It was a worthy investment and I highly recommend it.

These are simple, easy-to-make sugar cookies flavored with lavender-vanilla flavored sugar, which you make in advance (but can make and use the same day as you are making the cookies) and a tablespoon of lavender buds.

Lavender cookies sugar vanilla beans
Just look how pretty that lavender-vanilla sugar mixture is! And it smells heavenly.

Lavender cookies vanilla sugar
I made half the recipe called for (about two cups), used half that in the cookies, and have another cup left ripening in a ball jar.

Lavender cookies vanilla sugar jars
Stick your nose inside a jar of this sugar and you will swoon! You could also sift out the lavender buds to use the scented sugar in hot tea or other recipes. The flavor is subtle and very appealing.

The sugar cookie dough, which includes two eggs for some added richness, goes together quickly, is chilled until firm, then rolled out.

Lavender cookies ingredients
Those dark blobs are the tiny black vanilla seeds scraped from one of the beans.

Lavender cookies ingredients 2
Once again the pink Kitchenaid Cook for the Cure handmixer goes to work!

Lavender cookies blending
Lavender buds are so pretty to work with.

Lavender cookies blending 2
After rolling and cutting, some of the cookies came out a trifle malformed. Didn't affect the taste one bit! How about that. Don't the lavender buds look pretty in the dough?

Lavender cookies baking sheet 1
You can see the wee flecks of real vanilla bean. I also sprinkled a few of the cookies with turbinado sugar. It was good, but didn't make or break the recipe so I'd leave it off next time.

Lavender cookies baking sheet closeup
Cooked cookies chillin' out and awaiting the taste-test.

Lavender cookies baked
So, how does lavender taste when baked into cookies? On my palate it imparts a clean, piney flavor which is foiled nicely by the gently flavored sugar cookie dough. It's a new and fascinating taste--not an unpleasant one, though, and not perfumey as one might expect. Everyone in the house liked them (even the kids!), though they were initially hesitant to try them. (Lavender is for soap and candles and potpourri and Method house cleaning spray, not cookies.)

They were tasty, indeed, but I couldn’t be content to leave them plain and decided they needed a dip in some melted dark chocolate. Out came the Trader Joe’s Belgian chocolate bars!

Lavender cookies dipped 5
The result was divine. Chocolate, lavender and vanilla in a sugar cookie is an elegant, even sexy combination--light, rich and fragrant all at once. I think you could seduce someone with one or two of these treats. After all, lavender is known as, well, a mood enhancer especially for men, according to a study by the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. (So is pumpkin which, lucky me, Kenny likes as much as I do ...). In fact, they are so delicious with the chocolate it’s difficult for me to eat only one (or two) of these cookies. And the crisper, more golden cookies were the absolute best ones--next time I will carefully brown as many as possible.

Lavender cookies dipped 4
Not surprisingly, a plate of Chocolate Lavender Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies goes perfectly with a pot of hot tea--Republic of Tea Kiwi Pear Green is almost always my choice but any of the typical English/Irish/Scottish black teas would do well.

Lavender cookies and tea
I also cooked up some Lavender Simple Syrup from the same issue of Victoria Magazine, hoping to make a pitcher of refreshing Lavender Lemonade. Well, notwithstanding my suspicions that the proportions in the recipe were incorrect (or it could be that I'm just no good at making this concoction), the simple syrup was not my cup of tea. It ended up too cloying, perfumey and sweet, even when tempered with water, ice and lemons. I poured it down the drain. Lavender buds in cookies are lovely; lavender buds simmered with sugar and water are not.

Lavender syrupLooks nice enough, yes? But I shudder even at the memory of it. Too sickly-perfume-sweet, in my humble opinion.

Ah well, perhaps my culinary adventures with lavender will be limited to scrumptious, seductive Chocolate Lavender Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies. I can't exactly guarantee they will improve your love life (or mine) ... but it can't hurt to give them a try. Um, is it getting warm in here, or ... ?